SSH builds with a view to the future

25 October 2017
Matt Squires, CEO of the regional architecture firm, on creating award-winning designs

What projects is SSH currently involved within the GCC? And what are the stand-out schemes the firm has already completed in the region?

We have won several awards for our projects in the region, with two of our cultural developments in Kuwait receiving particular attention. The most recent was the Sheikh Abdullah al-Salem Cultural Centre, which was named Public Building of the Year at the ABB LEAF Awards 2017, and the Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmad Culture Centre, which now has four awards to its name: The Award of Merit at the ENR Global Best Projects Awards; Interior Design of the Year; Public Sector at the Commercial Interior Design Awards; and winning both Best Public Service Architecture and Best Public Service Interior, Kuwait, at the Africa & Arabia Property Awards.

[caption id="attachment_272762" align="alignnone" width="300"] Sheikh-Jaber-al-Ahmad-Cultural-Centre-interior[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_272758" align="alignnone" width="300"] Abdullah-al-Salem-Cultural-Centre-aerial-view[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_272759" align="alignnone" width="300"] Abdullah-al-Salem-Cultural-Centre[/caption]

Another notable scheme is the Kuwait Children’s Hospital, the largest of its kind in the world and which stands as an example of our collaboration with one of our many strategic partners. We are also working on various schemes within the Kuwaiti healthcare sector.

[caption id="attachment_272760" align="alignnone" width="300"]Kuwait-Childrens-Hospital Kuwait-Childrens-Hospital[/caption]

SSH is, meanwhile, embarking on the next phase of construction at the Oman Conference & Exhibition Centre, after the successful delivery of its first stage. The centre is Oman’s first significant venture into the conferences and exhibitions market.


In addition, SSH has many upcoming hospitality, residential, retail and mixed-use developments across the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region, several confidential developments with a leading UAE developer, and major masterplanning and infrastructure projects across the GCC, particularly the Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmad al-Sabah Highway in Bahrain.


How has SSH demonstrated a clear strategy/vision?

Since 2012, SSH has had a clear strategy and vision to become the architectural and engineering consultant, strategic partner and employer of choice in the Mena region. The strategy was to leverage our almost six decades of delivery excellence originating from Kuwait, while in parallel diversify our markets within the region. Over the past five years, we have taken our headcount from 300 to 1,400, with our revenue-generating territories increasing from three to nine countries. This has been made possible by our commitment to forging long-term, intimate relationships with our clients.


Moving forward, our strategic vision will fundamentally remain unchanged, but there will be subtle implementation differences compared with the past five years, which has been mainly focused on growth, to now having greater focus on operational excellence. This is natural for any business that posed the question from the client’s viewpoint “Why SSH?” to now posing the question “Why SSH again?”


Could you give us an example of a strong client and supply chain relationship?


Given our strategic approach to client relationships and our supply chain, it would be wrong to highlight any particular entity. Of course, each client comes with its individual operating opportunities and challenges, and the SSH offering needs to take this into consideration within its specific client engagement plan.


Could you give us a few examples of innovation in SSH's work along with any examples of commitment to the environment/sustainability?


SSH’s design and supervision principle is grounded in integrated design thinking and approach so that the needs of each discipline are incorporated as part of a holistic and united execution model. This fundamental tenet of our approach to construction enables us to blend sustainable thinking into everything we do and drive its execution.


This gives us the freedom to encourage constructive thinking from our skilled teams to drive innovative methodologies into how we work; and where project budgets allow, it encourages clients to have the trust and faith in our implementation of innovative construction solutions.


For example, this can be as simple as enhancing our 3D working methods so that downstream parties can supplement our design model with additional information. Not only is this true specifically for construction, but it also applies to long-term operational control and facilities management system integration.


We use local materials manufactured within the Middle East region where possible, thereby enhancing the local economies as well as minimising transportation, such as for building facades.


Where economically prudent, we employ materials that deviate from the norm, such as using titanium panelling on the facade of a building, given its inherent weathering and longevity, as with the SSH-designed Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmad Cultural Centre. This ensures the facade is proportionate to the expected life and operational needs of the building; this is a perfect example of how sustainable and innovative thinking needs to capture the long-term needs of the built environment.


What are the firm's prospects for the coming year?


We are committed to cementing our position within our current territories, which will result in steady growth. We are actively exploring opportunities with our existing clients in the North Africa region, as well as focusing on repeat business with new and existing clients across the GCC, building on our expanded trading platform.


Could you give us examples of excellent workforce culture?


Our principles for ethics and social responsibility are based on care for our colleagues, the people around us and the environment they work in.


Our work ethics are based on a philosophy where continuous contribution is essential. The link between ethical behaviour and social responsibility can be summarised in the following way:


  • ‘Good Ethics’ means doing the right things in the right way. For example, our managers should demonstrate openness, respect and commitment. We encourage colleagues to come forward with solutions to issues we are facing.
  • Social responsibility means to consider the social impact of our business on employees, as well as local communities and the environment. To increase the level of local knowledge, a social impact assessment should be conducted as part of the decision-making process.


These simple philosophies are part of SSH’s challenge to our leaders and staff; they must be incorporated into the way we do business every day. We employ and empower the best people in the creative environment and promote a performance-based culture where outstanding work is recognised. SSH as a company provides a challenging and rewarding environment for its staff. It has always promoted an inclusive, family culture, and encourages employees to have fun in whatever they do.


Openness and integrity are always at the core of everything we do, and our relationships, both within the company across its many territories as well as with our clients and strategic partners around the world, are built on trust.

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